The culprit of the wasted food epidemic

Most of us, when we encounter a food item in our pantry or refrigerator that has passed the “best-by” date, have the tendency to throw it away. We automatically believe the food is inedible and eating it will lead to illness. As self-sustaining college students, a lot of us buy our own food at the supermarket. Shopping for just one person is new to us, and that could lead to a habit of buying too much food. Therefore, many food items run the risk of passing their so-called expiration date, which can lead to the disposal of these foods.

This Editorial Board believes Americans should be aware of what these expiration dates really mean, because new research concludes that Americans waste millions of pounds of food by not understanding expiration dates printed on food items.

As stated above, a report from the National Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic states that Americans are “prematurely throwing out food.” The primary suspect is the misinterpretation of “best-by” and “sell-by” dates on the package. According to, the manufacturer gauges freshness with “best-by” dates. The date simply means that the product will have reached its freshness peak by then. The food is still edible, and will not likely make anybody sick. also describes the irrelevance of the “sell-by” dates to the consumers. Consumers have the habit of associating these dates with the idea that if the “sell-by” date is before the current date, the supermarket sold them a spoiled product. This is not the case at all. The “sell-by” date is purely a tool to help manufacturers ensure the customer receives a product with a long shelf life.

This Editorial Board believes the “sell-by” date on food packages should not even exist. If it has no relevance to the consumer, why is it printed on the package? There has to be a different way of regulating these dates. They have led to the waste of perfectly edible food.

We believe the logical solution would be printing the actual date the food is predicted to spoil. It seems obvious, but none of the dates printed on food have to do with spoilage. If the date indicated that the food is inedible after it occurs, food would not be wasted in this fashion.

Americans need to be more aware of the true nature of the dates printed on their food. Food that is considerably perishable, like dairy and eggs, actually last longer than the dates printed on their labels. According to the same article published by, eggs can last weeks after the date printed on the box. They might not be as fresh, but they are completely safe to eat.

Manufacturers also need to recognize the mass amount of food that is being wasted because of these dates. It’s not just the consumers’ problem; it is the manufacturers’ as well. This editorial board believes a new system needs to be developed in order to prevent this wasteful behavior.


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